I have been listening to a lot of debates recently between Christians on old earth vs. young earth creationists, and I wanted to get some thoughts out and hopefully some feedback as well.
Much of the debate seems to stem around the Hebrew word “Yom,” which has multiple meanings, one of them being a 24 hour day, another being an age or extended period of time. Each takes a different meaning of the word in Genesis and other places where creation is spoken of. I find that the argument favors the young earthers here: whenever the word “yom” is used in conjunction with a numeral(first day, second day, etc.) it means literal 24 hour day. Even more so when it is in context of evening and morning. One old earther tried to point out the oddity of the order here: evening to morning? Well, that was a failed argument, given that a Jewish day does indeed follow that order.
But on the other hand, the science is pretty much completely on the side of old earthers. The universe, by all appearance, is about 13.7 billion years old. The earth is much younger, s=but still much older than the 6-10 thousand years young earthers claim. There are so many problems that a young earther has to overcome in order for the view to even be scientifically possible, like the speed of light, carbon dating, etc. The speed of light being the important one. They either have to say that the speed of light has changed since creation began, or that it travels faster to earth than away from it. These are their only options to try to explain why the universe appears to be so vast in size, since we measure astronomical space in light years, which is where the age of the universe is derived from. But neither of the two options have any real weight.
So where do we go from here? Is the Bible wrong? Do we have to give up inerrancy?
My answer is simple: We go where we always go, to God. Here’s one of the fascinating things about how God works, He’s truly marvelous. Like when David writes his psalms, or Isaiah prophecies about Israel. They had their original intended purposes. But then Jesus comes, and all of the sudden, what they said in one context now is fulfilled in another. Clearly God changes the interpretation of the Bible through History. If there is no Jesus, these things still have meaning, just not the meaning they have for us. Think of Passover, animal sacrifice for atonement, they all made sense in the day, but make sense in a much different way today. What am I getting at?
If we look at Genesis and how “yom” is used, we would be write to interpret it as it was intended, which is most likely as a literal 24 hour day. But given what we know now, it seems to mean something different. In fact, now, there is a pattern. One debater that I heard, despite arguing that the intended meaning was to be age, made this point: God is still in rest in regards to Creation. We no longer see major works of creation. But herein lies the rub: We will one day again. There is going to be a New Creation, a time when God will stop resting, and create once again. I like this. But the Jews did not have this concept nearly as defined as we do now.
Some will argue that this is reading what we know back into Scripture… Indeed, it is. But guess what, Paul did too. And so did Mark. And Matthew. And Luke. And the early church fathers. And so do we. Again, the psalms that David wrote were not intended by David to be prophetic. But that’s certainly how we take them now. Isaiah, in many of his prophecies, did not intent to prophecy about Jesus, but rather Israel. Many of hos prophecies have dual fulfillments. Yet we do not say that this is unacceptable and deny that this is the correct interpretation of the words. In the same way, we can use this line of logic when we look at the Creation story. The author was ill-informed compared to how we are today when it came to time, days, creation, space, nature, etc. He was describing things as he could in his day(pun intended). But looking back, God had another intention, and God’s intentions always win out.
So here’s my conclusion: Young earthers are right. The word “yom” was probably intended to mean 24 hour day by the earthly author. The old earthers are right. The word “yom” today should be correctly read as age, because that is the way God, the heavenly author of the Bible, intended it. Unfortunately, some of the people on either side will bicker about this angrily, looking down upon the other side. Neither will want to change their stance, neither will want to admit defeat, even if that means coming to an agreement. Neither are completely wrong. Both are right in some sense. If only they could come together to realize that they need to combine what they are both right about, and admit that how they were going about things was wrong.
This debate will probably never end. But in my eyes its pointless. Either way, God created ex nihilo with a purpose. How, why, when is not a big deal. But if we want to make it a deal at all, it seems to me that since God gave us the ability to use science and reason, that we should use them, looking at the evidence openly(since it doesn’t matter either way), and coming to a conclusion. It seems that as Christians, sometimes we hold the Bible as a scientific textbook when it was not intended to be that. We want our science to match our interpretation, rather than the other way around.